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What’s On: Muddy Herts Guide 18-24 Feb 2016

Some neat stuff going on this week — and plenty to keep the kids busy and happy over in the Muddy Herts Half Term Guide (just a few more days to go).  Opera, film, photography and — planning ahead — gin.

Madam Butterfly, Alban Arena, 20 Feb, 7.30pm

madam butterfly

If you didn’t manage to get tickets to see Madam Butterfly at the Gordon Craig (it was sold out, after all), there are a few tickets left – but just a few, mind – available at the Alban Arena for this weekend.  The Russian State Ballet and Opera House performing Puccini’s tragic and romantic Madam Butterfly (*sniff*), sung in Italian with a 30-piece live orchestra right there.   Doomed love and soaring arias.  What more do you need for an evening out?  *sigh*

The Legend of Barney Thomson, The Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 24 Feb, 7.30pm

legend of barney thompson

This sounds odd but strangely intriguing.  Could be brilliant.  An awkward Glaswegian barber – bear with – is living a desperately mediocre life, and then becomes embroiled in the grotesquely comic (really?) world of a serial killer.

As You Like It (Delayed Screening), Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre, 25 Feb, 7pm


This was the first Shakespeare play I read at university, so I do have a bit of a soft spot for  As You Like It (which you may or may not share).  This is the first production of it at the National Theatre for more than 30 years, and it’s had some fab reviews.  It’s all boys dressed as girls dressing as boys again – and people falling in love with the people who don’t know who they really are.  All good fun, Shakespearean-style.  And a neat little theatre, perched a-top a library, in which to watch it.

Speakezee Presents Cambridge: The Art of Science, The Blue Moon, 2 Norfolk Street, Cambridge, 25 Feb, 7-10pm

the art of science

Fancy stretching those intellectual muscles?  This sounds fascinating.  Scientists talk about how the arts have influenced their work – one is a tango dancer and professor of cognitive cognition, another is a performance poet and optoelectronics PhD student, another is a artist in residence in a psychology department.  There’ll be music, too, from Daisy and the Dark, as well as a tango demonstration.  Serious evening – and lots of great places to go out in Cambridge afterwards and think it all through over a glass of wine or two.

Steve Jobs, Spotlight Theatre, Broxbourne, 18 Feb, 1 & 7.30pm

steve jobs

Lots of attention on this one again, given the Oscar noms and BAFTA win (go, Kate Winslet!).  I know my eldest is angling to go and see it, mostly because of that (and his obsession with his phone).  The Steve Jobs biopic doesn’t really appeal to me, story-wise, but the performances are apparently brilliant.  And Michael Fassbender could probably tempt me in…

Alastair Campbell, The Gatsby, 25 Feb, 7.30pm

alastair campbell

Fancy dinner with Alastair Campbell?  I mean, not just you and him – that would be weird, and I’d have trouble arranging it – but a 3-course dinner for you and friends at The Gatsby in Berkhamsted, with a Q-and-A session with him afterwards.  Lovely venue – I can *ahem* recommend the cocktails… – and an interesting guest, whether or not you’re a fan.

Katherine Ryan: Kathbum, Harpenden Public Halls, 18 Feb, 8pm


This is sold out – boo! – but it’s definitely worth checking for returns on the day.  Katherine Ryan is just much too funny to miss if there’s a chance to see her.   I just love how sharp and funny she is.  Properly hilarious.

Jason Donovan, Ten Good Reasons & Greatest Hits Tour, Watford Colosseum, 26 Feb 7.30pm


Fancy reliving your youth, swooning over the blue-eyed, blonde-haired heartthrob from Down Under?  Setting your inner teenager all a-flutter?  Late ‘80s, with the nation in grip of Neighbours fever (and me in the grip of secondary school), good old Jason released ‘Ten Good Reasons’ – and he’ll be playing that album in its entirety, start to finish, as well as throwing in a few other of hew greatest hits, just for good measure.  Bet you’ll know all the words.

Performing for the Camera, Tate Modern, 18 Feb-12 Jun

performing for the camera tate modern

We all perform for the camera, don’t we?  Whether it’s refusing to be serious, posing Zoolander-style, or covering our faces.  And this new exhibition is looking at that performance – from the stars of the Victorian stage to the art ‘happenings’ (yeah, man) of the 1960s, and the current obsession with selfies – and thinking about identity, gender and self-portraits through the work for more than 50 photographers.

Vogue 100: A Century of Style, National Portrait Gallery, London, 11 Feb-22 May


And talking of photographs, the National Portrait Gallery is showing 280 photographs commissioned by Vogue since 1916 – a hundred years of stunning images from what is, really, the most influential fashion magazine in the world.  You’ll need to book in advance, and the tickets are £19 each – although the rest of the gallery is free (and well worth a look – it’s my absolute favourite gallery).

‘Lates’ at Kew Gardens, 19 & 26 Feb, 5 Mar

kew gardens

This sounds like a perfectly lovely way to warm up those chilly winter evenings.  Up to now, I’ve been relying on thick socks and my hot water bottle – but sipping botanical cocktails in a seductively steamy glasshouse surrounded by tropical flowers sounds much more appealing.  After the gardens themselves have closed, enter the Gin Garden (oh my…) and explore the displays of orchids, all beautifully illuminated.  There are art and scent workshops, focusing on how plants use colour, shape and scent to attract pollinators; you can have a go at botanical illustration, with help from a specialist artist; create origami flowers; or even make your own scent to take home with you.  Can’t manage a trip to the tropics this winter?  This sounds like a great way to pretend you can.

Booking ahead…

Gin Tasting Night, Red Lion, Stanstead Abbotts, 27 Mar, 8-11pm

gin festival

I know this is a way off, but the tickets are going fast – and I don’t want you to miss out.  It’s an evening all about gin.  You’ll taste a range of handcrafted and award-winning gins, create your own boutique gins and get creative with some customised garnishes. Your ticket includes a G’n’T when you get there, 4 more gins to sample, as well as some nibbles to keep you going. I’m hoping to be there – fancy joining me?

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